Rocks!

Tsam above the clouds

Yes, sometimes there are rocks in those clouds - a good reminder for anyone flying in the mountains this time of year. I shot this on a flight from the Tahoe area down to Inyokern, California, down at the northern end of the Mojave Desert. Cruising at 11.5K, I was above the terrain, and on top of a broken deck of clouds that was quickly going scattered – beautiful, but a reminder that scud running in areas where rocks stick up into the airspace can be a poor decision. If you look  closely, you can see that there is not much air between the terrain and the bottom of those clouds – at flying speed, you could run out of room real quick! For me, I had wide-open sky and lots of desert off my left wing – far better than having no options but gliding down through a solid layer to the mountains below if the engine decided to quit.

Glorious flying, however – with the High Sierra in the background, these particular rocks form the eastern edge of the great volcanic caldera that is just to the north of Bishop, California. Mammoth Mountain is off that right ring about 20 miles, and another 80 miles on we'd find the highest peak in the lower 48 – Mount Whitney. There is great snow in the Sierra so far this winter – great news for those suffering from drought on the western slopes, although it will take several years of this to bring things back even close to normal.

As I passed by this same spot on the way home about an hour and a half later, the clouds we widely scattered, and the view was even better – but I liked this little reminder that yes – sometimes the clouds have rocks in them, and you need to be absolutely certain where you are and where can go if things get exciting.

Fly smart!

Paul Dye

Paul Dye, Kitplanes® Editor in Chief, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the space shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen, and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra they completed. Currently, they are building a Xenos motorglider. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 5000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, EAA Tech Counselor, and Flight Advisor, as well as a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.

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